GTFS: Global Trends and Future Scenarios Index

Creating the Future: The Promise of Public Research Universities for America


Creating the Future: The Promise of Public Research Universities for America
by James J. Duderstadt
Prepared for APLU Volume Celebrating
The 150th Anniversary of Morrill Act


America’s public research universities are the backbone of advanced education and research in the United States today. They conduct most of the nation’s academic research (62%) while producing the majority of its scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers, and other learned professionals (70%). They are committed to public engagement in every area where knowledge and expertise can make a difference: basic and applied research, agricultural and industrial extension, economic development, health care, national security, and cultural enrichment (McPherson, 2009).

Ironically, America’s great pubic research universities were not created by the states themselves but instead by visionary federal initiatives. During the early days of the Civil War, Congress passed the Morrill Land Grant Act (1862) that provided revenues from the sale of federal lands to forge a partnership between the states and the federal government aimed at creating public universities capable of extending higher education opportunities to the working class while conducting applied research to enable American agriculture and industry to become world leaders.